How Battery-Diesel Hybrid Locomotives Are Paving The Way For A Greener Future

How Battery-Diesel Hybrid Locomotives Are Paving The Way For A Greener Future
April 15, 2024 Jessica Salt
A blue diesel electric locomotive rail operating both efficiently and sustainably to reduce carbon emissions in the UK.

The rail industry, like many others, is going through a transitional phase. Over the next two decades new legislation and regulatory requirements mean there will be a move away from carbon-based fuel, such as diesel.

This is in order to reduce emissions in line with the frameworks of legal guidelines as laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement and other national regulatory measures. However, the shift from diesel power towards a battery electric or hybrid system shouldn’t necessarily be seen as restrictive or punitive.

In fact, the drive towards a rail network powered by battery-electric locomotives brings with it a number of key benefits. Any initial investment in technology and infrastructure should be offset against the potential long-term economic benefits, not to mention the enormous environmental factors at play.

The benefits a battery-diesel hybrid locomotive bring can include:

Increased Energy Efficiency

Diesel-electric efficiency is built on optimising power delivery through operational demands. The regenerative braking systems capture and store energy during deceleration, improving overall efficiency compared to pure diesel models. This recaptured energy can be used to power the train in motion, other trains within the network or even to offset the power demands of other loads, such as lighting stations.

Emission Reduction

The use of cleaner diesel fuels, in combination with features such as exhaust treatment systems and emission control technologies, can significantly reduce the negative environmental impact of locomotives. This includes lowering emissions and producing cleaner air around rail infrastructure. In fact, the hybrid driving mode can combine with energy recapture during braking to reduce emissions by as much as 83%. As transport is one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions on the planet, the extended efficiency and reach of battery trains (up to 150 km and growing) is increasing adoption and driving the industry towards reduced emissions as a whole.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Rail transport uses 80% less energy than trucks per ton of freight carried and is already four times more efficient than road haulage in terms of its emissions and carbon intensity. In the US alone, rail freight pulls more than 20 billion tons of cargo each year. When the already carbon efficient power of trains is combined with battery electric technology, the industry has the potential to transform carbon emissions around the world. If widely adopted, battery electric trains could slash the US industry’s annual emissions in half, according to a study by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Improved Engine Life

Onboard batteries allow diesel engines to be used only when required, reducing idling time. The engine is then only required when the power levels demand it. This can help to prolong engine life, reducing the need for maintenance and upgrades. This can significantly increase return on investment and makes the initial outlay of switching to battery hybrid trains much more financially sustainable in the long run.

Battery Storage

Hybrid train networks can be designed to incorporate advanced battery storage systems, enabling them to retain surplus energy generated during operation. The stored energy can then be utilised during acceleration or when running on electric power, ensuring a more sustainable and efficient operation. The stored energy can also be used to offer flexible backup power during extreme weather events or other shortages, and all at a cost lower than some other infrastructure investments, such as electrification.

Are you considering making the change and converting your locomotives to a hybrid model? Want to discover exactly how a diesel electric locomotive works in a more efficient way? Book a demo with Clayton to find out more about bespoke conversions and our diesel and electric locomotives today!